As Ohio State continues to expand its role in the commercialization of research, it is important to create an environment that facilitates and rewards research creativity and entrepreneurship. To support and stimulate entrepreneurial activity among Ohio State researchers, three university-wide awards were presented on October 22, 2015, to Ohio State’s most successful entrepreneurs.
Innovator of the Year: Robert Lee
The 2015 Innovator of the Year is Robert Lee, professor in the Division of Pharmaceutics and Pharmaceutical Chemistry. His research focuses on the design and development of novel targeted drug delivery systems based on lipid and/or polymer-based nanoparticles.
Dr. Lee has invented a series of novel liposome and lipid nanoparticle formulations during his 18 years at Ohio State. These discoveries have resulted in numerous patent applications, invention disclosures, licensing agreements, sponsored research agreements and business startups – and most importantly, have resulted in new and more effective ways to diagnose and treat prostate, ovarian, colon and lung cancers.
In September 2014, a portfolio of Dr. Lee’s lipid nanoparticle patents, along with miRNA patents of Dr. Carlo Croce in the College of Medicine, was licensed to Microlin Bio Inc. in the university’s largest licensing deal in more than a decade. The portfolio includes nearly 100 issued and pending microRNA patents, as well as a novel nucleic acid delivery technology to deliver these transformational therapies to cancer cells.
Rexahn Pharmaceuticals Inc. licensed Dr. Lee’s proprietary nanoparticle delivery technology that specifically targets tumors with oligonucleotides in a way that increases potency and reduces side effects.
In addition, Dr. Lee has invented a novel liposomal formulation of the anticancer drug bortezomib, which has increased therapeutic activity and reduced toxicity in acute myelogenous leukemia – and he has invented a novel liposomal formulation for therapy of multiple myeloma.
Early Career Innovator of the Year: Melissa Bailey
The 2015 Early Career Innovator of the Year is Melissa Bailey, associate professor in the College of Optometry. Her work in the areas of visual optics and the development of myopia is leading to new technologies that are changing the way health care providers diagnose and treat visual impairment.
In 2014, she won the Big Ideas for Health competition hosted by the IDEA Studio for Healthcare and Design at the Wexner Medical Center for a mobile software application, called TESA (for The Eye Scan App), that allows health care practitioners to make many different measurements of the eye, including an estimate of a patient’s glasses prescription and a new, automated measurement of eye alignment. Current testing for eye misalignment, a condition which causes blurred vision and can’t be corrected after the age of 10, requires high-level technical expertise and specialized equipment. Because of the dramatically simplified hardware and ease of use, Dr. Bailey’s device can be used in any location at a fraction of the cost of existing devices. The invention was licensed in 2014 by the start-up company Sight4All, and may be available to health practitioners within the next year.
Dr. Bailey is also collaborating with emeritus professor of optometry Joseph Barr on the development of a new bifocal contact lens design – the Buck-Eye Contact lens, which received a provisional patent in September. And her non-invasive imaging technique for measuring the size and shape of the eye’s ciliary muscle was issued a patent in June.
Student Innovator of the Year: A Team of Five Graduate Students from the College of Nursing
The 2015 Student Innovator of the Year award goes to a team of five graduate students from the College of Nursing who developed a mobile app that provides Columbus’ underserved populations with confidential, free, easy access to community resources. The team members are: Sarah-Jane Baserman, Megan Miller-Lloyd, Phillip Newman, Stephanie Ritchie and Hayley Townsend.
What started as a class project to create a resource to tackle a community health problem turned into “MobileYou” – a solution to help low-income and vulnerable populations gain access to food pantries and free meals, free health care clinics and mental health resources, housing and shelters, transportation, employment opportunities, and more.
The team recently submitted an invention disclosure to the Technology Commercialization Office. They plan to make the MobileYou app more robust by adding additional agencies and services, many of whom contacted them after seeing the app featured on a local news broadcast. The team would like to broaden the reach of the app to other cities and states.
The Innovator of the Year and Early Career Innovator of the Year awards recognize Ohio State researchers who are working actively to promote commercialization of university intellectual property, through invention disclosures filed, patents applied for and/or received, technologies licensed or spin-off companies formed. These activities support economic development in the Central Ohio region, and serve to attract companies that create a base of operations within the state. The creation of separate categories for more established researchers and for early career researchers allows cultivation of an entrepreneurial spirit among all of our investigators.
The Student Innovator of the Year award recognizes innovation and entrepreneurship among our students that has contributed to the development or commercialization of a new technology. This year’s Student Innovator of the Year award is sponsored by Sigma Xi, the scientific research society honoring excellence in scientific investigation.